Who belongs to whom?

One recent story that keeps popping up in my news feeds is how various police and intelligence authorities are complaining about the security in the iPhone 6 being too tough for them to crack. I’m not sure how much of that is real, but it does suggest a couple observations we might make.

First, if it’s true that the iPhone 6 is the first device that’s not open for the police to read whenever they want, then that means all previous devices have been more or less open to government search and seizure at their discretion. A court order might be nice, but as we’ve seen again and again, the government routinely dispenses with such formalities when they become inconvenient.

The second and more important observation is that there’s been a fundamental shift in the foundations of our democratic republic. The government is no longer owned by the people. The people are now owned by the government, at least in the government’s opinion.

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Opinions

I said it again the other day, but then I had second thoughts. “Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion,” I said, but is that really true? Have you ever thought about the full range of opinions we’re implicitly endorsing by saying everyone is entitled to believe whatever they believe?

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More thoughts on gun control

I confess I have mixed feelings about gun control. On the one hand you have situations like the recent shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, where something clearly needs to be done to protect children against mass murder. That one seems like a no-brainer.

On the other hand, I don’t trust the 1% and I’m increasingly unhappy with the increasing subversion of democracy that is being used to turn our free country into a vast machine piping wealth out of the lower and middle classes and into the bank accounts of the very wealthiest, at the risk of financial disaster for the other 99%. Nor am I pleased with ever-encroaching “State secrets” covering up detention, torture, and assassination of “enemies,” including US citizens.

Is it possible that the Founding Fathers, in protecting the people’s right to keep and bear arms “necessary to the security of a free state,” were showing more foresight than expected? Fortunately, a comment on last Friday’s post gives me an opportunity to dig into this a little more.

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What to do in your second term

Congratulations on your re-election, Mr. President. I’m glad you got a second term, because there are still a few items that need to be finished up from your first one. And now that you don’t have to worry about being re-elected, I hope you’ll have the time, the freedom, and the will to fix some of our worst problems:

  • Transparency. We cannot afford to elect a government that can be blackmailed by anonymous power brokers with big bank accounts. We the People need to know who is writing the actual text of our laws, and who is profiting from them.
  • The Constitution. I know you’re busy, but can we have our Constitutional rights back, please? Particularly the First and Fourth Amendments? Bin Ladin is dead, yet as long as our nation remains so terrorized that we won’t take our families on board airplanes without government agents fondling our kids, the terrorists are winning. I’d like to live in a FREE country again.
  • Wall Street. It shouldn’t be legal to cheat people out of house and home. Nuff said?
  • The deficit, aka tomorrow’s taxes. Yes, that needs to come down, but can we start with wasteful “defense” spending? It’s one thing to speak softly and carry a big stick, but that stick gets kind of hard to carry when it reaches sequoia proportions.

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Mother convicted of “disorderly conduct” for refusing TSA grope.

The Tennessean reports that a Clarksville mom has been found guilty of “disorderly conduct” for refusing to participate in an unconstitutional violation of her right to privacy, otherwise known as a TSA “pat-down”.

Transportation Security Officer Karen King testified that before the pat-down, Abbott yelled in her face that she didn’t want anyone “touching her daughter’s crotch.”

Abbott eventually allowed her then-14-year-old daughter to undergo the pat-down, but then she refused a pat-down for herself and was arrested.

You can watch the video at the link above and see for yourself just how “disorderly” this mom really was.

Spirit of the Sith

Today’s link goes to Mano Singham’s post, The Obama administration considers constitutional rights to be dangerous. The administration is correct: constitutional rights are dangerous, at least to those who are exploiting others from positions of privilege and power. But the absence of rights is far more dangerous, in terms of the scope and extent of everyday harm.

Stray thoughts: congressional review of state secrets

If you’ve been reading Ed Brayton’s blog, you know that one of the big problems with the current administration, like administration before it, is a penchant for using the so-called State Secret Privilege to avoid accountability for any questionable activities it might be engaging in. In fact, if anything, the current administration is even worse than the last one, and worse yet, they’re proving successful at getting the courts to rubber-stamp this kind of blanket immunity. And that’s eroding the distinction between the democratic republic we’re supposed to have, and the effective dictatorship we’re heading for.

So here’s my stray thought of the day: if the judicial branch won’t provide any checks and balances to the executive, why not Congress? The genius of the American constitution is the trade-off between the democratic power of the legislature and the executive power of the president, with the additional safeguard of an independent judiciary (on paper, at least). So why can’t we have a congressional investigation into the administration’s reckless invocation of the State Secret Privilege? Obama can’t argue that only the state has the right to be “in” on the secret, because Congress is just as much the state as he is. And if the president still won’t allow Congress to exercise its constitutional responsibility to provide checks and balances to the abuse of executive power, then maybe it’s time for them to exercise their constitutional power of impeachment.

I’m no political scientist, so I don’t know whether that’s either desirable or doable, but I thought I’d put it out there. From what I remember from social studies class, it seems like the right thing to do.

White House pulls plug on popular petition (or does it?)

The Electronic Privacy Information Center reports a disturbing but sadly unsurprising development in the struggle to recover our civil liberties.

At approximately 11:30 am EDT, the White House removed a petition about the TSA airport screening procedures from the White House “We the People” website. About 22,500 of the 25,000 signatures necessary for a response from the Administration were obtained when the White House unexpectedly cut short the time period for the petition. The site also went down for “maintenance” following an article in Wired that sought support for the campaign.

If you follow the link to the Wired article, you can read about the circumstances which led to the petition, which was basically asking the White House to intervene to get the TSA to comply with the law.

UPDATE: Commenter Eidolon tracked down a post from the petition’s author stating that the petition was not pulled early, but simply expired. He speculates that people were assuming that the signing period would extend through midnight, but instead it expired in the middle of the day, at roughly the same time as when he first posted it. That’s not unusual, given how computers keep track of time periods, and it’s understandable that this could create the misperception of a prematurely-terminated petition. He also notes that the petition was given an extra day to compensate for the outage.

More state-sponsored malware discovered.

Having problems with your computer? You may have a virus paid for by taxpayer dollars.

A newly uncovered espionage tool, apparently designed by the same people behind the state-sponsored Flame malware that infiltrated machines in Iran, has been found infecting systems in other countries in the Middle East, according to researchers.

The malware, which steals system information but also has a mysterious payload that could be destructive against critical infrastructure, has been found infecting at least 2,500 machines, most of them in Lebanon, according to Russia-based security firm Kaspersky Lab, which discovered the malware in June and published an extensive analysis of it on Thursday.

The spyware, dubbed Gauss after a name found in one of its main files, also has a module that targets bank accounts in order to capture login credentials. The malware targets accounts at several banks in Lebanon, including the Bank of Beirut, EBLF, BlomBank, ByblosBank, FransaBank and Credit Libanais. It also targets customers of Citibank and PayPal.

via Wired.com.

Thank goodness we can rely on Russian heroes to defend us from the predations of democracies like the US and Israel.

4th Amendment protections officially moot

Wired magazine reports the depressing news that we now officially have fewer constitutional rights than we did under Bill Clinton.

The federal government may spy on Americans’ communications without warrants and without fear of being sued, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday in a decision reversing the first and only case that successfully challenged President George W. Bush’s once-secret Terrorist Surveillance Program.

In other words, the government can freely and secretly violate the Constitution, with absolutely zero accountability or oversight, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. They can watch everything we do, and we cannot watch what they do.